The events of the last month have left us all in a state of confusion, fear and uncertainty. As many areas are in the process of shutting down industries in an effort to curtail the spread of COVID-19 our nation is withdrawing. The once surging economy is now struggling as our economic machine grinds to a halt. These are scary times for most of us unsure whether our businesses and families can sustain a prolonged shut-down.
Rather than devolving into panic and becoming defensive, however, I think this is the perfect time for reaching out to others in the spirit of contribution. As many brace for a prolonged period of working from home or sheltering in place to wait out the virus, I think it’s important that we take this opportunity of spending more time at home to focus on some of the things we’ve been too busy to pay attention to up until now. There is an old saying that says in times of adversity we should hope for the best but prepare for the worst, right? Well, I believe that “preparing for the worst” should include drawing those around us closer, meaning family and friends, and using this down time to re-establish old relationships, both business and personal.
What do I mean by that? There are essentially five big areas we should be focusing on…
1. Engage with your children. Yes, the kids are home for a prolonged and unexpected period of time. Use that time to plan family activities together at home and put energy into teaching your children things they don’t have the opportunity to learn in school. Some ideas:
a) Plan some “Field Days.” Get out into nature or pick a science project to work on together.
b) Teach them the proper way to set a table and have them help plan and serve a special family meal with your best silver and china.
c) Hold lessons on how to “count back change” in a mock store (a skill that’s sadly lacking in today’s youth)!
d) Use an online tool to start family language lessons. Spanish, French, Italian, Chinese—have your children pick the one they want to try.
With a little research, I’m sure you can come up with a curriculum that keeps their minds active while you have fun engaging with them.
2. Take Care of Your Elderly Family and Neighbors. At this time, it’s especially important to talk more with our parents, as well as elderly neighbors and friends. You might not be spending time together in groups, but that doesn’t mean you can’t pick up the phone or do FaceTime or Skype with them on a daily basis to check in and chat. I have an elderly neighbor who I check on frequently. I let her know that I’m available any time she needs anything! I’ll go to the grocery for her, bring her a meal, run an errand… whatever she needs doing so she can stay in place and be safe. It’s all too easy for the most vulnerable among us to become depressed in isolation and fearful, so reach out to them. If you can volunteer for a meals-on-wheels program, now is the time they need help. Or you can just canvas your neighborhood or church for shut-ins who can use groceries or prepared food.
3. Help Your Business Community. On a business level, think of ways you can contribute your service to help others. How can you add value to your customers’ lives right now? Not by pitching them stuff at a discount, that’s for sure. In this time of business and personal crisis, we should all be pulling together to help each other through the uncertainty—not running ads for selling stuff that no one is even thinking about right now. Three things come to mind that every businessperson should be doing right now:
a) Call your current and past customers and just see how they’re doing. Make it personal. Offer to share something with them that could be of value to them at this time… an article, a recipe or a video post with helpful information they could use on the best ways to take care of themselves and loved ones right now.
b) Connect with them on Facebook or Instagram and schedule time to seek opportunities to engage with them there. This is a perfect opportunity to work on growing your social network that you may not have had time for before… creating and sharing valuable content, commenting and engaging with others, sharing valuable content. Come from a place of contribution here—create and/or share content that is meaningful to their lives at this moment of crisis. Be engaging, share funny content or uplifting posts about others, don’t be afraid to share your opinion in a professional manner, and like and/or comment on their posts. People always remember how you made them feel. Remember, your brand/business is what you do; your reputation is what people “will” remember and share. Be in the mode of building that reputation as a human being.
c) Our restaurants, pubs and hospitality businesses are particularly hard hit. If you have the means to do so, support them by either ordering takeout or buying gift certificates. In fact, buying takeout could also be a way of helping those elderly neighbors we talked about earlier. Brainstorm with your business partners, colleagues and vendors on ways to pool resources to help as well.
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Like many of you, we are a start-up growing business as well, so we understand how the current situation can have a negative impact. We hope this small contribution helps in some way. We are all in this together, so let us know how we can support YOU.
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4. Improve Yourself. There are a lot of valuable online learning and workout resources. Get in shape, stay in shape, and/or educate yourself during this time… learn a new skill, study history, write a book, learn to cook, add to your cooking skills, etc.
5. AND Don’t Forget to Take Care of Yourself. Perhaps the most important tip of all is to take care of yourself because it’s hard to help others unless you feed your own soul. Take the time to do things that bring you joy. If you’ve got a family pet, spend quality time with them. Work out at home. Break out that cookbook you haven’t had a chance to get into and make some new recipes. Drink lots of fresh water. Limit your screen time. Walk in nature or in your neighborhood if you can do so. Listen to your favorite music. Practice meditation or prayer. Do things that make YOU happy.
The bottom line is that we can and should take charge of how we react to what’s happening around us that is beyond our control. And the best way to do that is to concentrate on building positive relationships with as many people as possible starting with those closest to you and radiating out from there. Getting back into relationship building is what makes us human and helps all of us deal with crisis. We’re in this together, so let’s concentrate on finding more ways to help each other cope and come out on the other side of this as stronger human beings with stronger relationships.
This was originally on Ted Rubin.